Sustainable products and waste management

in Environment

Good management of our resources is important to how we do business. For this reason we strive to identify new ways to conserve energy and recycle more while generating less waste. Our commitment also extends to introducing sustainable products and practices where we can cost-effectively do so. We expect moving forward to incorporate environmental considerations in the selection of priority products.

2016 goals

  • Expand CarbonChoice corporate carbon offset partners
  • Identify opportunities and implement (when appropriate) facility energy efficiency improvements
  • Introduce select sustainable items across customer experience where feasible 

Partnering with organizations to continue the customer’s sustainable journey

Starting this summer, we’ll begin serving illy coffee on all United flights worldwide. illy coffee is already being served at United Club locations at U.S. mainland hubs and will appear soon in all other United Club lounges this year. We’re proud to serve illy, whose coffee- bean growers and processor earn above-market wages in exchange for following eco-friendly and sustainable-quality practices.

Cowshed - designed for Soho house

Cowshed Spa skin-care products are another recent addition to United flights. The award-winning, eco-friendly product line – including hand creams, lip treatments, moisturizing balms and towelettes – are found in many premium cabin amenity kits, as well as in United Club locations. Made in England, Cowshed uses organic and fair-trade extracts and essential oils to make their premium products. All products in their line are made from sustainable sources and natural botanicals and contain no parabens, petrochemicals, sulphates, animal ingredients (spare a little organic beeswax and wildflower honey), artificial colors or fragrances and no animal testing.

United Eco-Skies Upcycling initiative

When the Chicago Department of Aviation modified the size of banner advertisements allowed at Chicago O’Hare, United Eco-Skies took action to divert over a football field’s worth of fabric to the landfill and took the opportunity to "upcycle" the materials rather than throw them away. The practice of upcycling allows us to repurpose materials in a creative way to create something truly one of a kind.

We partnered with students at Columbia College Chicago’s Fashion School and challenged them to design a mock-up of a travel bag using only upcycled materials. The students were given three days to complete their designs. The guidelines required that they design a bag that was durable, fashionable and could fit easily underneath an airplane seat. Additionally, the students were instructed to keep the needs of a busy traveler in mind, whether for an overnight business trip or for the daily work commute. The students received credit hours for participating in the challenge and also learned how to incorporate sustainability into their designs.

Fashion and design students Anne Tilma and Dillon Halford conceptualized the two winning travel bag designs. Tilma’s design is a duffel-style bag with a detachable tote, while Halford’s bag is a backpack-style bag designed for the daily commuter.

After the winning designs were selected, they were produced by advanced artisans at the Re:new project, a Chicago-area nonprofit providing employment and community for refugee women resettled in the U.S. Each bag carries the story of the remarkable woman who made it.

The United Eco-Skies Upcycling initiative helped reduce landfill waste and encouraged the students, our customers and employees to think differently about waste. All proceeds from the sales of the upcycled bags benefited the Re:new project and the Eco-Skies CarbonChoice Alto Mayo Forest Carbon project. This project provides jobs for local families, incentivizes new approaches to farming and helps to protect a critical watershed in northern Peru that supplies more than 240,000 people and many threatened species found nowhere else on Earth.

Recycling and responsibly managing waste

In early 2015, we integrated select United Express aircraft into our fleet-wide United Eco-Skies recycling program. We monitor our processes to enhance our sustainability, waste reduction and fuel efficiency practices and evaluate the environmental impact of the products we use throughout our operations.

United’s carbon offset program

eco-skies CarbonChoice

In 2015, United and Wyndham Worldwide began working together to reduce carbon emissions associated with corporate air travel. The hospitality company, which is one of the largest in the world, became an official launch partner for United’s Eco-Skies CarbonChoice corporate carbon offset program. The Eco-Skies CarbonChoice program enables the airline’s corporate customers to track and offset the emissions stemming from their business travel and freight shipments on United at the enterprise level.

Through the CarbonChoice program, participating corporate customers receive customized enterprise-level carbon emissions reports and can purchase offsets to counterbalance the emissions associated with their transport, effectively allowing them to travel and ship carbon neutral on United. United’s industry leading corporate offset program uses actual flight level data – recognizing aircraft type, routes, fuel consumption, payload, and customer-specific business travel and cargo shipments on United. The carbon offsets are available through United’s partnership with global NGO Sustainable Travel International and enable participants to support projects designed to help reduce greenhouse gases as well as provide social and economic benefits to communities where those projects are located.

In 2015, United, United customers and employees offset 7,604 metric tons of carbon emissions. The projects our CarbonChoice offsets supported included:

Alto Mayo Forest Carbon Project

Conservation International’s Alto Mayo Forest Carbon Project in northern Peru helps to protect a critical watershed for more than 240,000 people and many threatened species found nowhere else on Earth. The project also provides jobs for local families and incentivizes new approaches to farming that support rather than undermine native forests. This project is an independently verified Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) carbon offset project registered under the Verified Carbon Standard.

Garcia River Forest Project

The Garcia River Forest Project helps to conserve forestland, restore wildlife habitat and protect local forestry jobs in the heart of California’s Redwood region. Preservation of this forest land allows for the prevention of 77,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually and is an independently verified carbon offset project registered with the Climate Action Reserve.

Capricorn Ridge Wind project

The Capricorn Ridge Wind project helps to displace fossil fuel-based energy production with clean, renewable wind power. This project produces enough wind-based electricity to power approximately 220,000 homes annually and is an independently verified carbon offset project registered with the Verified Carbon Standard.